Thursday, 5 September 2013

Two Reviews, Oceans Apart: RAVEN: BLOOD EYE by Giles Kristian

Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian
I decided my review of Raven: Blood Eye by Giles Kristian, would not be complete unless my review of it in 2011 was brought to the table too.
So, this is a review of two parts. Two reviews of one book, but years apart. In the name of equivalence.

I have a confession. I rarely reread. I know many people that love rereading old favourites, or books they have not read for a long time or books they want to try again to see if they feel differently about them, but I hardly ever do. Then if I do, it is usually for a good reason such as joining in with others in a book club read.
From time to time (and by time to time I really mean once every other year) there are books that I feel deserve a reread for one of two reasons. One, wanting to revisit a favourite book or series, or two, because I feel that when I first read a particular book my mood was not well matched to it at the time.
These 'poor mood matches' stay on my mind for a long time after and then, given the right push, I give them a second chance and reread.

One of those 'poor mood matches' for me was Giles Kristian's Raven: Blood Eye. I always felt that when I read this book in October 2011 it was a case of wrong time, wrong place.
On paper, it should have been a perfect fit. I love classy, intelligently written historical fiction. I love classy, intelligently written adventure and journey historical fiction. But most of all, I love classsy, intelligently written Viking or Norse historical fiction.
And Raven: Blood Eye checked every one of those boxes.
So why did it not click with me in 2011?
It is, after all, a well written book. The writing surprisingly skilful for a debut. I liked the setting, the characters, the era and yet my lasting memory of the book was that it was chapter after chapter of 'walking and thinking' or 'walking and talking' or 'sitting and thinking' or 'sitting and talking'. And not much else. Not exactly a blast, according to my 2011 self.

Boy, was I wrong. Because here I am August/September 2013. nearly two years on (See. Every other year. Didn't I say so?) and I felt like I just read a totally different book to the one I read back in 2011.

The Raven: Blood Eye I read this time had so much more going for it than I first assumed. It has adventure, (not only journey) and that surprised me. I have no idea why I did not notice it the first time around.

The book is rich in historical detail and rounded out with a robust norse culture and character.
I once compared it to Bernard Cornwell's and Robert Low's Viking offerings, but in actuality, it is nothing at all like Bernard Cornwell's Saxon books and shares more commonalities with Robert Low's Oathsworn books. That is a good thing, I should mention, since I think Robert Low's Oathsworn series is better than Cornwell's Saxon series.

For all these reasons I now think the book deserves 4 stars out of 5. There was still room for improvement in regards to plot and characters, but I have bought the next two books in the trilogy and we will see what Giles Kristian does with those. That 5 stars for a Kristian Raven trilogy book may still be on the horizon. Since the debut was so good I kind of expect the next books to be even better.

I also wrote a review of it when I read it in 2011 and now that I have shared my newfound affection for the book in 2013, let me pull you into my time machine and whisk you back to October 2011. To set the scene..I had just read a book called Raven: Blood Eye and I had just given it a weak 3 star out of 5 rating.

Please note firstly that I was not as wordy back in 2011 and perhaps you will think I should take a lesson from that. But in 2013 verbosity is so much more fun for me.

Goodreads Review - October, 2013;
This book was a bit of a disappointment for me. It looks the goods. Seemed promising out of the gate, but overall, it simply felt a bit flat.
The author can write well enough. There was no amateur writing to be had here, but the story, for me, was just words on a page. Nothing of note happens in a hurry through the meat of the book. Seemed to be a lot of standing or sitting around doing not much of anything.
I will still go on with the series at some stage. I figure that when the main character Raven becomes a man, and therefore makes for a much more interesting character to me, the story may hold more promise than this one.
I think here in the first of this series the author is trying to build a character for the other books leaving this one as a 'how the boy became a man' kind of read, which is important sure. I just wish he'd done it quicker and not made a whole book on it.
But I'll forgive him for now and let me see first what he does in book 2.

Where on earth was my head at back then? Irrespective, there you have it. Two reviews of the same book. One for 3 stars in 2011 and one for 4 stars in 2013.

Two reviews, oceans apart.

- MM

*By the by. If you are interested in knowing a little about the author, I interviewed Mr Kristian here on the Ancient & Medieval Mayhem Blog.

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